Habitat selection and dispersal behaviour are key processes in evolutionary ecology. Recent studies have suggested that individuals may use the reproductive performance of conspecifics as a source of public information on breeding patch quality for dispersal decisions, but experimental evidence is still limited for species breeding in aggregates, i.e. colonial species. We addressed this issue by manipulating the local breeding success of marked individuals and that of their neighbours on a series of breeding patches of a colonial seabird, the black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla). Based on previous observations in this species, we predicted that individuals that lost their eggs on successful patches would attend their nest and come back to it the year after at a higher rate than individuals that lost their eggs on patches where their neighbours were also in failure. As predicted, the attendance of breeders and prospectors was strongly affected by the local level of breeding success, resulting in differential site fidelity and recruitment. This suggests that individuals used information conveyed by conspecific breeding performance to make decisions relative to breeding site selection. This process can amplify the response of these populations to environmental change and may have contributed to the evolution of colonial breeding.
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